29/08/05 ( Business Line) - The issue of environmental implications of oilpalm cultivation in Malaysia came out prominently in the interview withthe Malaysian Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, DatukPeter Chin, "Malaysia would like to see India as its hub for Palm Oil"(Business Line, August 12).
It was reassuring to learn from the Minister that the areas to go underoil palm cultivation in Malaysia were not forestland and that thegovernment was keen on preserving biodiversity.
Conservationists, particularly campaigners against the large-scaleconversion of forestland in Malaysia and Indonesia, will be interested toknow about such reports and the sources thereof. India is the largestimporter of oil palm and more than 90 per cent of it is from Malaysia andIndonesia. To avoid negative impact on both people and the environment,India should insist that all the palm oil imported adheres to verifiableenvironmental and social criteria. Such sustainability criteria areelaborated by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) (www.rspo.org)and are expected to befinalised by the RSPO Conference on on November 22and 23.
A feasibility study is also being undertaken by the WWF-India on the oilpalm sector in India, as part of the Forest Conversion Initiative. Thestudy focuses on the scope of influencing business and industry to reduceIndia's "foot print" related to oil palm production in Malaysia andIndonesia. The preliminary resultswill be available during Mr Peter Chin'sproposed visit to India in November. It is important to both India andMalaysia to ensure that the economic benefits from trade agreements arenot at the cost of destroying forests and biodiversity.
T. R. Manoharan
Forest Policy and Economics